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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Ohio wraps up mail-in primary

Ohio holds vote-by-mail presidential primary
Ohio holds vote-by-mail presidential primary 06:02

Ohio's mail-in primary ends Tuesday evening, over a month after Ohio Governor Mike DeWine postponed the state's primary, originally scheduled to take place on March 17. In late March, CBS News campaign reporter Jack Turman says the Ohio legislature passed a sweeping bill to address the coronavirus pandemic, which also included extending the vote-by-mail primary to April 28. 

On Monday, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose said 1,975,806 vote-by-mail ballots were requested and 1,458,936 ballots have been cast. "This is not what any of us had envisioned months ago for how we wanted to run this election," LaRose said at a press conference with DeWine. "But I tell you what. We've risen to the occasion. Ohio's boards of elections, these bipartisan teams of very dedicated and patriotic individuals in all 88 counties, have risen to the occasion."

In a press call Tuesday afternoon, the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition indicated they had been hearing questions and concerns from voters about casting an in-person provisional ballot. Voters who did not receive their absentee ballot were able to cast a provisional ballot at their county board of elections. Jen Miller, the executive director of the League of Women Voters of Ohio, said the boards of elections "have been confused themselves" about a directive to allow people to cast a provisional ballot, but noted that under the timeline, it was difficult. "They've been set up with a nearly impossible task with the short timeline with such an intensive process," Miller said.

Mike West, a community outreach member at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, said over 500 people showed up at their county boards of elections, as of 2 p.m. West said voters followed the health protocols at their county's board of elections. He described some of the precautions taken by the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, including a line that was marked in six feet intervals and designated cleaners, who disinfected voting booths immediately after a voter left the booth.

Mike Brickner, Ohio's state director for All Voting is Local, said Ohio's mail-in primary is a learning opportunity on how vote-by-mail can be further improved for future elections during the coronavirus pandemic. "We can't predict what's going to happen with this global pandemic, except that we can predict that until we have a vaccine, the virus is going to be here in our communities," Brickner said. "We have to start planning for what the impact is that that's going to be for November election."

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

Longtime colleague and sometimes rival Hillary Clinton joined Biden this afternoon to endorse him and speak about how the pandemic specifically affects women in America, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. 

"Just think of what a difference it would make right now if we had a president who not only listened to the science, put facts over fiction, but brought us together, showed the kind of compassion and caring that we need from our president and which Joe Biden has been exemplifying throughout his entire life," Clinton said. She also had some digs at President Trump while boosting Biden, saying, "Think of what it would mean if we had a real president, not just somebody who plays one on TV." 

For his part, Biden floated several compliments Clinton's way, too, and said at one point that he wished they were instead talking about getting her re-elected. Clinton's endorsement Tuesday could also provide an opportunity to smooth over any remaining tension between the competitive pair. Read more here about Biden and Clinton's relationship regarding the 2016 election — and how her loss then is affecting his own campaign strategy on how to take on Mr. Trump in November. 

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP

The Trump campaign responded to Secretary Hillary Clinton's endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden today, reports CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. "There is no greater concentration of Democrat establishment than Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton together," campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement. "Both of them carry the baggage of decades in the Washington swamp and both of them schemed to keep the Democrat nomination from Bernie Sanders. President Trump beat her once and now he'll beat her chosen candidate."

Meanwhile, Vice President Pence's visit to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, meant to highlight the clinic's partnership with the state to help battle the coronavirus, was quickly overshadowed by videos and photos of Pence touring the facility without a mask. 

In a tweet, Mayo Clinic said it had informed Pence that all visitors and patients must wear a face mask, but within an hour that tweet was deleted. According to pool reports, healthcare workers lined the halls and applause could be heard as the VP walked into the blood and plasma donation center where patients were donating plasma. CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar says the pool notes indicated Pence was the only one seen without a mask in the building as he thanked workers. 

Vice President Pence told reporters that he and everyone around him is "tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis." Pence said he is following CDC guidelines which indicate that the mask is good for preventing the spread of the virus by those who have it. "And since I don't have the coronavirus, I thought it'd be a good opportunity for me to be here, to be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible healthcare personnel, and look them in the eye and say thank you." 

Afterwards, Pence held a roundtable with Mayo Clinic employees and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. "I just want to say how much we appreciate Governor Tim Walz," Pence said at the beginning of his remarks. Last week, Walz announced a partnership with Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota to significantly expand coronavirus testing in the state to about 20,000 per day. Pence added that his visit to Minnesota today was to "celebrate" a "whole of America approach," that Minnesota is undertaking. The Mayo Clinic has not yet said why its initial tweet saying Pence had been informed about the mask-wearing policy was taken down.

VEEPSTAKES

STACEY ABRAMS

In her second of six media/live appearances Tuesday, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams joined former Labor Secretary Robert Reich to talk about voter suppression and her ambitions to be vice president. CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte notes this was an interesting conversation because during the Democratic primary, Reich praised Senators Sanders and Warren for their progressive policies. 

In his conversation with Abrams this afternoon, Reich applauded "Medicare for All" and universal basic income, and even asked Abrams what her response was to the young and progressive voters who are not excited by a Biden nomination. 

Abrams without hesitation voiced her support for Biden. "Joe Biden is a man, not only of integrity, but if you look at the policies he has espoused, the ones he's adopted, the way he's framed this campaign and his plan for leadership, it's first and foremost that he's not going to take anyone for granted. He's not going to take communities of color for granted, he's not going to take young people for granted," she said. 

And, in a possible swipe at Sanders' and Warren's more transformative platforms, Abrams added, "[Biden's] not going to take progressives for granted. But we also need someone who can get in there on day one and start navigating those spaces and getting, not just the ideas out there, but the policies in place."

Another interesting exchange took place when Reich quoted John Adams, George Washington's vice president, on the vice presidency, which he disparaged as "the most insignificant Office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his imagination conceived." Reich said that when he worked in the Clinton Cabinet he had seen Al Gore frustrated in his role.  "I think people often mistake position for power, and they look at titles rather than access […] And I look for opportunities to not just build up, but to dig deep roots. My interest in serving is that I believe that Joe Biden will be a transformative president for us," Abrams said.

Abrams, who has been frank in her desire to be vice president, continued to hype her resume today, even citing college experience she had in relation to fighting climate change. "I interned for the EPA for two summers, working on the issues of environmental justice. I wrote my thesis in college on environmental racism and how we need to address the poorest and least resilient, who face environmental challenges," she said.

Finally, Abrams commented on today's primary in Ohio and New York's decision yesterday to cancel its primary. She praised Ohio Governor Mike Dewine for swiftly moving the primary, but said more could have been done in preparation, like including paid-for postage in the mailed ballots. 

She chastised the New York Board of Elections decision and said, "We may know the end of the story but no one gets to stop us from reading it." Abrams made the point that cancelling the primary sends a signal that it's the safest decision to not hold an election. Abrams said that's the wrong message to be sending.

ELIZABETH WARREN

Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday announced plans to team up with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on a bill to stop large companies and hedge funds from overtaking smaller ones suffering financially from the COVID-19 crisis. 

"As we fight to save livelihoods and lives during the coronavirus pandemic, giant corporations and private equity vultures are just waiting for a chance to gobble up struggling small businesses and increase their power through predatory mergers," Warren said in a statement. CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says The Pandemic Anti-Monopoly Act would impose a moratorium on mergers and acquisitions involving companies with over $100 million in revenue, private equity companies, hedge funds, and companies with holding a patent for a product used during the crisis. 

"Although antitrust agencies are tasked with defending open and fair markets by stopping anti-competitive mergers, their inability to aggressively take on concentration before the crisis began has further limited the federal government's ability to respond effectively to the pandemic." 

The forthcoming bill would also waive waiting periods and deadlines binding antitrust agencies and order the Federal Trade Commission to establish a legal presumption against mergers and acquisitions that hinder the government's response. Such measures are likely to face strong opposition, particularly in the Republican-controlled Senate, but Warren plans to push for them in the next coronavirus relief package.

Warren also continued a push to include an Essential Workers Bill of Rights in the next coronavirus package that would add a set of protections and benefits for those on the front lines of the crisis. She and Representative Ro Khanna, along with five dozen other lawmakers, sent their proposal to the Senate and House leaders. "Frontline workers — including health care workers, transit workers, farm workers, grocery workers, domestic workers, and delivery workers — are risking their lives to keep America running. Congress has a responsibility to protect them and their families," Warren said in a statement.

LIFE AFTER 2020

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

The Senate's most vocal champion for believing women in their allegations of sexual assault is standing with Vice President Joe Biden in the wake of Tara Reade's allegation. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who led the fight against then Minnesota Senator Al Franken to resign from the Senate, told Just the News Tuesday that she stood by Biden. 

CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte asked Gillibrand about allegations about Biden at the time, before the Reade allegation of assault was made public. Her response then was that the Biden allegations "were very different" because they were complaints of discomfort, not assault. "The women who have come forward said they felt uncomfortable. They said they didn't feel it was sexual harassment or sexual in nature," Gillibrand said. Reade has accused Biden of forcibly touching and kissing her during her time as his Senate employee in 1993. The Biden campaign previously told CBS News in a statement the allegations are "untrue" and that the incidents alleged "did not happen."

BERNIE SANDERS

A team of former Bernie Sanders senior advisers announced today the launch of "Future to Believe In," a PAC aiming to "rally the constituencies that supported Sanders' presidential campaigns to defeat Donald Trump in November." CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte says the founders include some of Sen. Sanders' most-trusted advisors including Jeff Weaver, Chuck Rocha and pollster Tim Tagaris. The group says it is committed to galvanizing Sanders' base to support Biden. 

"Already, the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has demonstrated openness to moving in a more progressive direction in areas such as wages, labor rights, higher education funding and health care. Recently, Biden and Sanders have agreed to jointly convene policy task forces to find even more common ground. Future to Believe In will work with supporters, activists and political insiders to expand these gains," the group's press release read. "Future to Believe In" was viewed skeptically by some of Sanders' most fervent supporters, who are also fervently anti-Biden. 

Winnie Wong, also a former Sanders 2020 senior advisor, tweeted Tuesday, "Nothing like draining the social capital out of a senior citizen who has spent the past 40 years fighting to end poverty with a political sleight of hand just to collect a few six figure checks to keep the hustle moving. Charming."

SURROGATE SAYS

BIDEN FOR PRESIDENT

The Democratic National Committee held a press call featuring leaders from Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin to discuss President Trump's policy on China and how a Biden administration would counter China, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson. Representative Tim Ryan, of Ohio, criticized the Trump administration for focusing attention in January on the Phase One China trade deal while downplaying the threat of coronavirus. 

This criticism added to complaints Ryan, along with Michigan's Democratic state party chair and Wisconsin Farmer's Union President Darin von Ruden, had about China's effect on the economy and agriculture. Ryan was asked how a Biden administration would be tougher on China, and he said that, "If we're going to compete, Vice President Biden knows that we've got to make those investments into the schools and into the research laboratories and parlay that research into helping businesses grow here in the United States and be able to stay here in the United States and get private capital. But there's got to be a comprehensive industrial policy."

POLLING THE ROOM

PANDEMIC VOTING

Two-thirds of Americans expect the coronavirus will significantly disrupt people's ability to vote in November's presidential election, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center. But the political divides still exist as 75% of Republicans say they are confident the election will be conducted fairly and accurately compared to just 46% of Democrats who feel confident in the fairness and accuracy of the November election. 

CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar says several states have already moved towards vote-by-mail elections for their primaries and earlier this month officials across the country were starting to sound the alarm about the November election. Now, 70% of Americans favor allowing any voter to vote by mail if they want to, including 44% who strongly support this policy. 

On Monday, President Trump was asked if they had thought about changing the date of the November election. "Why would I do that?" Mr. Trump quipped. He added, "I never even thought of changing the date of the election." Only Congress has the authority to change the date of the presidential election. Mr. Trump's comments came days after the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said he thinks the president will be "kick back the election somehow," and "come up with some rationale why it can't be held."

STATE-BY-STATE

ARIZONA

Arizona's secretary of state, Democrat Katie Hobbs, posted a statement late Monday condemning the state's attorney general, Republican Mark Brnovich, for asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a court's decision blocking restrictions on "ballot harvesting and out-of-precinct voting." 

In January, CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says Democrats had persuaded an appeals court that the laws were violations of the Voting Rights Act. But Brnovich has pushed to appeal the ruling, accusing "out-of-state special interests" for attacking "common sense voter fraud laws."

NEVADA

In Nevada, Democrats moved this week to intervene as defendants in a federal lawsuit by "True the Vote," the self-described "voters' rights and election integrity organization" seeking to undo the state's all-mail primary. CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin says Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske's attorneys described the group's suit in a court filing Monday as "at most... a policy dispute about the relative merits of in-person voting processes and vote-by-mail processes during a pandemic." Earlier this month, Democrats had also sued Cegavske in state court with own demands over the upcoming contest.  

NORTH CAROLINA

The progressive advocacy group People For the American Way hosted a virtual town hall with North Carolina lawmakers Monday evening, as a part of its "Protect Our Vote: Defending Democracy During COVID 19" virtual town hall series. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that the series, which began with a virtual kick-off featuring Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren last week, will also include town halls in Arizona, Colorado, and Georgia in the coming weeks. 

PFAW is one of 150 organizations that make up the Declaration for American Democracy coalition, which is fighting in part to ensure election security for voters across the country amid the COVID-19 crisis. According to a PFAW representative, the group is actively working with partners in different states to organize the virtual town halls and had been working with these groups before the coronavirus outbreak.

During Monday's event, multiple lawmakers highlighted the necessity of ensuring safe and fair elections for voters by providing vote by mail options ahead of the general election in November. "It shouldn't be a matter of your life or your vote," said Congressman David Price of North Carolina. 

Price called the circumstances around Wisconsin's primary earlier this month a matter of "tragedy and triumph." During the virtual town hall Monday evening, Congresswoman Alma Adams of North Carolina said, "No American should have to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote. This is especially true for the communities that are most impacted by this crisis—our communities of color." She added, "It's shameful to not allow those most at victim of COVID-19 to not have a voice in how we rebuild our democracy, how we protect our citizens from the worst of this crisis, and how we set a foundation for addressing the next pandemic when it comes." 

WISCONSIN

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, said on Tuesday that he isn't ruling out the chance for Democrats to host an in-person convention in Milwaukee this summer. 

"I think at this time it's really impossible to predict what the status is going to be then," Fauci told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Things looking like they're leveling off in many cities and you have to remember this is a big country and different cities have different dynamics of outbreaks." 

Fauci acknowledged that people are "anxious" to "gradually get back to normal," but he isn't sure what the situation will be in Milwaukee when the convention is scheduled to take place the week of August 17. "If we successfully really suppress the dynamics of this outbreak and Milwaukee is capable of being able to do the kind of identification, isolation and contract tracing that they may be able to do it," he said. But, there will "almost certainly be some degree of extra care and physical distancing" if an in-person convention takes place, Fauci said. DNC chair Tom Perez told reporters last week that he expects to hold an in-person convention in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW) announced on Tuesday that it will conduct its state convention virtually, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. "Given the continued public health threat the Coronavirus pandemic poses, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin concluded that it was in the best interest of our members' safety and wellbeing that this year's state convention be conducted 100% virtually," DPW communications director Courtney Beyer said in a statement. 

The coronavirus has forced many state parties to conduct their conventions virtually. CBS News reported last week that Texas Democrats plan to pull off the largest state convention in the nation virtually. The state conventions serve partly as a pep rally for the party, but are also for conducting party business, like electing delegates to the national convention.

Also on Tuesday, the Wisconsin state health department reported that 52 people who voted in-person or worked the April 7 election have since tested positive for the coronavirus. 

"So far, 52 people who tested COVID-19 positive after April 9 have reported that they voted in person or worked the polls on election day; several of those people reported other possible exposures as well," Wisconsin Department of Health Services spokesperson Jennifer Miller said in a statement to CBS News.

During a media briefing Tuesday afternoon, the health department's deputy secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk told reporters that the window for reporting coronavirus cases linked to election participation is closing.

"We're getting to the point where the door would be closing on those and after the first week of May we will no longer be asking that question about the April election. Of course we will ask it as future elections occur," Willems Van Dijk said.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

The key results to watch in Ohio's congressional primaries are in the 3rd District, where progressive Morgan Harper is looking to unseat Democrat Congresswoman Joyce Beatty. Harper is one of the several candidates that groups like the Justice Democrats were helping to further grow their progressive ranks in the House. 

Recent similar races saw mixed results: while Marie Newman was able to beat out incumbent-Congressman Dan Lipinski in Illinois, Jessica Cisneros fell short in her bid against Congressman Henry Cuellar in Texas. 

In an interview in January with CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro, Harper said she wanted someone with a more progressive platform to represent the Columbus-area district. 

"It's a lot of people who are ready for a different type of leadership and a more aggressive policy platform that isn't going to be afraid to get things done in Washington," she said. "There is this recognition that what we're doing isn't working."

Beatty has been backed by the Congressional Black Caucus, which Politico reports is looking to send a sign to other progressive candidates that are trying to unseat CBC incumbents. 

"Let me make the message strong and clear: When you attack a hard-working member of the Congressional Black Caucus, we fight back. We are the conscience of the caucus, and we represent people," Beatty told Politico Tuesday. Beatty has also had the upper hand in fundraising, with more than $1.8 million raised compared to Harpers' $771K.

Editor's note: An earlier version attributed an interview with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to NBC News, but it was in fact conducted by Nicholas Ballasy of Just the News. The article has been updated.

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